Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Aha moment

Hey everyone,

I haven't had a lot to post about recently - the yard has been pretty much under water since the beginning of October, and Peepers has been up and down since The Big Incident. Boy, that's funny to write :). Anyway, I have spent time thinking about training and had an aha moment. I discovered I really am a dork. really.

As many of you know, I have been working with Peepers and Sparky on wearing a harness. I had gotten as far as having Peepers put his head through and lift his wings (briefly) for goodies. The next step in actually putting on the harness is to slide the big loop down his wings, and get it underneath each of them. I have been really concerned about this step - with the loop around his head, if and when I managed to get the loop under even one wing, any problem that Peepers might have with the harness could explode into an absolute devastating panic because I would not be able to get the harness off easily. So, I was putting off going to this next step.

Yesterday I saw a video on facebook from Premierf Pet Products. It showed Jean Donaldson teaching a chow to wear a head halter (for those of you who are interested, She trained the nose loop and the head collar portions of the halter separately, then combined the 2 when she wanted to get the dog actually wearing the halter.

Well, of course. I can and will be training the big loop around the wings and the small loop around the head separately. While I am training the big loop, it will be easy to slip it off down Peepers' back if he decides he wants it off, and there should be fewer problems with panicky situations this way. I really have no idea why I didn't think of this sooner. I really am a dork. really.

So today I started up with harness training again, and Peepers is a little suspicious of the big loop, so we need to work up to him hanging out while I lay it on his back etc etc. I won't be doing the head loop for a while, but I assume we will have taken a step or 2 back in that department too. Lucky thing this isn't a race LOL. Here's the video:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Today I really got started on my program to rehab my relationship with Peepers. I had put out foraging stuff for him last night, so he woke up with things to do. He had a great time, I could hear when he dropped the nut shells, and sometimes when he tore open a dixie cup. He never came into the bedroom to pick on the dogs, although Sparky still must've caught it from Peepers, as there was an episode of lots of flapping and a little squawking. Still, a vast improvement in behavior from previous days.

Late in the afternoon, I finally set up a training session. I moved from the bird room to the kitchen, and I am hoping that the set up will film better. Plus it's a smaller table, and so I hope to have a little more success with Sparky and the retrieve when she gets used to the area.

I started with Peepers, and I was kind of lucky. Since I am not handling him yet, I had to rely on him to come with me to train (and it's a new area, which could have confused him). He followed me over, and when I pointed to the table he hopped right down. I decided to work with the die on his retrieve. I wanted to see where he is at with this after such a long break, and I also wanted to get my hand close to him at a time that he had something in his mouth. He started a little slow, so I backed up to clicking when he picked up the die. I only had to do that once, and suddenly he was back on track. He even got to the point where he turned his head to put the die in my hand. Nice job!

I tried to do Sparky next, and unfortunately not only was she nervous, Peepers came back and interfered with her session right away. I had given him an almond over by the couches, and thought he would do what he had done in the past, which was sit nearby and watch Sparky's session. Instead he flew right into hers, and I mishandled it. I had the target spoon in my hand, and as he got on the table, I shoved the spoon between the 2 of them , and kind of pushed it in his direction. My goal was just to turn him away from Sparky, but you could see by his body language that this was a real mistake. Sparky flew off, and then I decided to work with Peepers again. I wanted to repair what I had just done, and since this is what he seemed to want, it seemed right to give it to him. We were still a little dicey, and I was jumpy thinking he was going to bite me, but Peepers did do well overall with working the retrieve thing.

After we got done with this impromptu session, I asked Peepers to follow me into the bird room, where I gave him an almond and then closed the door so he couldn't come back and interfere again with Sparky. All I did with Sparky was a little bit of targeting. She really was uncomfortable, so it was a short session that hopefully was a positive experience overall for her.

So far, so good. Time to set up the foraging stuff and see what tomorrow brings :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

The big incident and what to do about it

Hey all,

As some of you have seen, yesterday I had a little problem with Peepers. The short story is that he bit the living daylights out of me. The longer one is that he asked me to pick him up, and when I did, he bit the living daylights out of me.

I don't know why he chose to do this, or if he would choose to do it again. At the time, after I pried him off my thumb, the only thing I did was not allow him to come near me for a while (probably an hour). He wanted to sit by me again, but I wasn't going to take any chances, and it seemed at the time to be reasonable to tell him to stay away from me if he was going to behave like that. Last night, I had flyball, so we both had more time to cool off while I was gone from the house.

That also gave me a bit of time to reflect on Peeper's life for the past few weeks, to see if I could find some answers to his behavior. Recently I have been a little bit busy, and haven't been filling the foraging toys as often as I should. In addition, I also haven't been taking him out to the barn for training as much, and I can tell he wants to do more of that. Peepers hasn't solicited pets and scratches in these couple weeks either. So, Peeper's opportunities for positive reinforcement direct from me have been reduced significantly, and his opportunities for appropriate independant play have also been curtailed.

On the other side of the equation, Peepers has also been getting into a little more trouble than usual. He's been into the books on the bookshelves, poking through the trash, and picking on all of the other animals in the house. So, he's been getting told off more than he normally does. In other words, the punishment level has been going up for him. I guess I need to be clear here - punishment in this house means being told to get off, or leave it, or go away. There is no use of physical punishment here, nor do I yell (unless I am currently being bit all to hell, then I spose the neighbors may hear me). Punishment simply means that the focus has been on decreasing behaviors rather than increasing them.

So what does this mean? Well, I'd bet it's been a pretty crummy couple of weeks for Peepers. Studies show that the use of punishment can lead to increased aggression in all species. In Peepers case, he has had very little positive reinforcement to offset the amount of punishment that he's been subject to. He's been constantly told "don't do this", "stop doing that". What a yucky way to live! So thinking back, it is really no surprise that he would finally start to lash out.

All of this describes the setting events leading up to the bite. I can't say for sure what the antecedent to the bite was (well ok, it prolly has something to do with my hand being close to Peepers beak), but I think it is safe to say that in all likelyhood, if all these other things hadn't been happening, the probability of Peepers biting me for any reason would be less. More reinforcement = less aggression overall.

So this leads to what I am going to do to prevent this from happening again. Besides filling the foraging stations more often, I am going to start training in the house again, and when I am more comfortable handling Peepers, I will get back in the swing of taking him out to the barn for training time out there. I will not be directly handling him for a while, because right now I would flinch when he stepped up, and that would be detrimental to our relationship (this is what is preventing me from taking him to the barn now). I am setting up an area for Peepers to chew on sacrificial books. I already did a little bit today - I took some nutriberries and asked Peepers to fly to different spots in the house to get them. This is an activity that doesn't require me to touch him and gives him some exercise. We hung out near each other for part of the afternoon. Now that it is dark, it is time to set up the foraging stuff for his and Sparky's pleasure when they get up in the morning.

I expect that I should see a change in his overall behavior and attitude in a very short time. I will keep everyone updated, and of course will be videoing the sessions in the house. Happy training!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Luring vs Shaping

Hi all,

Since my computer broke, I have had a bit of time on my hands to think about some aspects of training. One of them is the benefits of luring vs shaping, and the disadvantages of each.

I tend to use quite a bit of shaping when I train the dogs, and this has carried over to the birds. Many people know that my first dog, Sophie, was trained using some pretty harsh methods when I first got her. I haven't described what I did with my second dog, Sidney. I went to a very good competition obedience instructor, who used luring in his classes to teach puppies what their jobs were. So Sidney learned to "follow the cookie", and really, he did very very well. He learned each skill quickly, and I found it pretty easy to get rid of the lure.

A while after Sid went through his obedience training, I received my first clicker in a goodie bag at a national agility competition. I had heard about shaping, and how to use a clicker, so I sat down with both Sidney and Sophie to see what I could teach them. I started with Sidney, and thought I would teach him to play dead. While I worked with him, Sophie watched (very closely, I might add).

Poor Sidney. You could practically see the smoke coming from his ears. He was very interested in the treats, and clearly wanted them, but it seemed that without the crutch of a lure to follow, he was completely lost. And, even bigger, he wasn't inclined to offer any behaviors at all. He waited for me to show him what to do, and when I didn't, he gave up the whole project. What happened next, though, was astounding, at least to me.

Sophie moved right into the spot Sidney had occupied, and played dead. The complete behavior, as if she had been through an entire shaping program. Holy cow!

I thought that this just showed the personality differences of the 2 dogs - Sophie was just smart, and Sidney, well, let's just say he was a short bus candidate :(. I was really interested in learning more about using a clicker to train, though, so I joined a bunch of clicker training lists. I soon started hearing something that was really interesting - many professional dog trainers with lots of experience with all sorts of dogs preferred punishment-based trained dogs to lured dogs for retraining projects. The reason? In their experience, dogs whose previous training was based on "following the cookie" were very very difficult to get to offer behaviors, or, in their words, to get to THINK. Hmmm.

My next dog, Bungee, was another learning experience for me. I wanted to do more shaping with him, and learn more about how it works. I found, in Bungee's case, that I needed to be careful with what behaviors I shaped, and even how I shaped them. Bungee tends to really get off on hearing the clicker, with obvious physical reactions to each click. It made a shaping program very difficult to implement, with Bungee jumping around chirping like a monkey and throwing behaviors at machine-gun speed. I learned not only how to use shaping with him, but when not to use it.

I learned to value independently offered behaviors, and an animal that thinks and then has the confidence to act upon those thoughts. So, when I started working with the parrots, I took those values with me. Peepers and Sparky both have played "101 things" to encourage offering new unique behaviors, just like the dogs. I rarely use a target stick to induce behavior from them, because it feels like "follow the cookie" to me, and given my personal experience, and the stories from professional dog trainers, I am inclined to shy away from using lures to get behaviors with my birds.

I've been told that parrots don't really offer behaviors, and that Peepers is a little unusual. I have wondered if this idea is really because of the nature of parrots, or if it has as much to do with the usual training practices. I generally see suggestions on the lists to have the bird follow a target to get a behavior going. I wonder what would happen if many parrots were trained mostly using shaping. Would we find that they throw lots of behaviors? Or would we find that most parrots would quit doing anything when given the option to do anything? As I wonder about this, I keep trying to use as much shaping as possible with Peepers and Sparky, just in case luring has the same effect on parrots as I have heard it does on dogs.

In the meantime... Sparky flew to me for the first time in at least a year and a half the other day. It was a difficult first flight, too, that she initiated. It involved a blind u-turn in a hallway to a room she had never been in. I am so so excited. Since then, she has started flying here and there in the house, and it is so awesome to see her struggling along to get her strength back, all while hearing her twitters that sound so full of pride. I'll have to try and get some pics when I get my camera back.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hi all,

This week has been as hot as an oven, so I haven't taken Peepers out to the barn. He's been a little unhappy about it, and has even taken to putting himself in his carrier and then calling to me to get my attention. Poor guy. I think I will have to take him out there even if we bake really soon.

Sparky has gotten in enough feathers now so she can fly about 30 feet. She doesn't gain any altitude, and landings are a bear for her, but she has started using her wings again to take her as far as they will, then walking the rest of the way. So now I am constantly on the lookout for little miss greenjeans on the floor. It's awesome to see her start to get her mojo back, and I can't wait til she's cruising around the house like she used to :).

Dempsey has been a rockstar with his flyball training. At practice this past Sunday, only one thing of note happened - we lined him up for recalls against a little dog named Kix. Kix is small, but mighty, and is of the philosophy "say it loud, say it proud". For the first recall, Dempsey was watching Kix and missed the jumps. We changed it up for the next few recalls, letting Dempsey go first, and he got his head together and recalled like he's supposed to. He needs lots of practice with this kind of distraction, just to make it clear to him that he can do his job even when other things are going on.

I borrowed one of the team boxes, and Dempsey has gotten to practice his box turn at home. He's been totally awesome for the super short sessions we have had. When he gets tired, he hits the bar he's supposed to be jumping over, so I am making sure that I don't give him the tug for those efforts and also am trying to be more aware of how tired and hot Dempsey is getting. I think he's going to get it really soon.

I also tested Dempsey in the field behind the house to see if he would drop the ball when presented with the tug during a retrieve. In flyball, the dogs have to carry the ball over the line, so some dogs need to be taught to carry the ball to you in order to get the tug. Dempsey's inclination was to drop the ball just as he got to the tug, so for now I shouldn't have to do anything to teach him about bringing me the ball. Yeah!

There's a cool front coming through in the next few days, so I am hoping to get outside with everyone and train a bunch of stuff. I'll be crossing my fingers...

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Blue screen of Death

Hi all,

My poor computer died, and is now on it's way to Kentucky to either be revived or buried :). One way or another, it will be about 3 weeks before I have regular computer access. My plan is to keep training, and keep filming (as long as I am not in PJ's LOL), and to post about the sessions as I can. I will also be inserting where film should go in those posts (it shoud look like this: ). When I get my computer back, or the replacement one, I will go back through the posts and add the videos that I did for those sessions. So for those of you following, you will be able to go back and watch when you have time.

Happy training, everyone, and I hope to chat with you all soon!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Little bit of training with Peepers and some thoughts

Hi all,

This morning I got up almost reasonably early and took Peepers out to the barn before it got too hot. Since I had gotten up a little later than I wanted to, and it was already getting warm, I went out in my pj's and without combing my hair. Hence, there is no video. Vain, I know, but there are limits here :).

Peepers was pretty excited about going out there, and this time I didn't take Sparky. It was going to be just him and me, then Sidney the lab pushed his way out the gate, so he went into the barn with us. We started how we had ended the last session, with the pole in the same spot in relation to the perches. I worked on moving the perches so that the three things would be in a straight line, and Peepers would have to fly in a half circle to go from perch to perch. There was a time in this session where Peepers started to have trouble. He was going from the shorter perch to the taller one, flying on my right side. He was supposed to fly on the right side of the pole, but he instead flew on the left side of the pole and on my right (for those who are having trouble picturing this, that put him between me and the pole). We worked on this for what was probably 3-4 reps, then suddenly it clicked for him, and Peepers started flying from perch to perch on the correct side. He could hardly wait to take his next turn. I'd give him his pine nut, and he'd turn right around and almost immediately fly again. I had a hard time keeping up with him, making sure I cued the next flight before he took off. All in all, it was a really good session, and I kind of regret not taping it.

As I think about how to go about training Peepers in these skills, I try to draw off of the experiences I have had teaching the dogs similar skills for agility. If I wanted to teach the dogs to go out around a pole, it would be a simple matter of having a pole and slowly moving away from it while asking for the dog to go around it. With Peepers, it is different. I have to set up the perches, which limits some of the choices Peepers makes, and also changes the exercise in some ways. I think that the perches almost distract from the behavior I am trying to teach, a "go around". There also could potentially be a difference in how Peepers thinks about his movement in relation to me. I think that these 2 things may be affecting how quickly Peepers is learning this skill. I am really not sure how to change the exercise, so my plan right now is to keep going as I am (at least one of us has done it this way before), and think about how I might make things easier for Peepers.

As far as Dempsey goes, I have placed a jump in front of a stair for him to jump onto and off, trying to replicate a swimmer's turn on a box until I can get a shell built for him. I am not sure that this is close enough, so I am trying to get the shell built sooner rather than later to be sure we are practicing exactly what we want to. He's doing very well on the stair, and I am looking forward to seeing how he does this weekend at practice.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Some good days :)

Hi all,

I haven't had time to post about my training adventures in a few days, but I did manage to video them and post them to youtube. We've done some fun stuff, and since I can't remember all of it, I have been reviewing the tapes so I can post what I remember from the sessions.

On Friday, I was able to take Peepers and Sparky out to the barn. Peepers is working on flying around a pole, and Sparky is getting used to being out in the barn. The basic flow of the session is that I work with Peepers while Sparky hangs out on my shoulder. When Peepers needs a short break, I would take Sparky to one of the perches and give her a big almond. She would hang out on the perch and I would go back to Peepers and do little tricks while he caught his breath. When she was done, I would take her off the perch and go back to working on the whole pole thing with Peepers.

There isn't a ton in the first video. It takes a few minutes for Peepers to get into the swing of things, but even during that time, he was interested in the idea of training, he just needed to get into the swing of things. He did some nice reps of flying around the pole. One thing I think I need to note on this is that when Peepers is unsure of something, he tends to not want to take off from the perch he is on. He is much more confident flying from my hand. So, when he shows interest, but is hesitant, I ask him to step up and then cue "go" from there. I don't launch him in this situation, I keep my hand steady and let him make the choice to go. I don't know why this makes a difference for him, but since it does, I use it to break the ice, so to speak. You'll see it in the middle of this video - Peepers gets a little hesitant to leave the taller perch, so I ask him to step up and then send from there.

In the second half of the session, I moved the pole and perches around a bit. There is also a spot at about 0:54, where I cue Peepers to go, and he goes, but flies on my side of the pole. This was an incorrect behavior, but I had clicked in anticipation of him going around correctly (my bad!), so I gave him a pine nut, but then picked him right back up and put him back on the lower perch and asked for the correct behavior. I believe that if I click, the animal should get the reinforcer. If I hadn't clicked, I would have just simply picked Peepers up and put him back on the lower perch and asked again. This was the only thing in this half that seemed noteworthy to me.

The battery was running out, so I planned on ending the session, and turned off the camera. We hung out in the barn for a while more, while Peepers explored the bars more than he ever has before. Sparky of course hung out on my shoulder and watched :). I did notice that this session was pretty hard on Peepers physically - he was very hot and tired by the end of it.

On Sunday, I took Bungee and Dempsey to another team's flyball practice. I've known some of these members for 10 years or so from seeing them around flyball and agility, so I knew that we should get along pretty well. Dempsey did really well, we did recalls from the box with a dog in the other lane, and he was very solid about it, just looked down his own lane and ran his heart out. The only time he slowed down a little was when I was out of breath and didn't call him or speak at all (note to self - get in shape!!). He also did box work, which this team does a little differently. I have been shaping the turn, and had progressed to getting 4 feet on the box (inconsistently). Pam suggested that I start to use a jump before the box, so we introduced that to Dempsey. Kyle taped it for me, so I am able to share; and You can see at about the 5 minute marker in the second video where Dempsey is jumping the jump against the box and he hits the box with his left rear foot. Pam immediately moved the jump to help make Dempsey's job more clear - all 4 feet over the jump without touching it. Within one or two reps, the jump was back against the box and Dempsey did a wonderful turn. I learned a bunch, some of which I had forgotten. 1.) Get in Shape!!! 2.) Motivation is key, and your energy level will be reflected in the dog 3.) Sometimes you gotta talk (or in this sport, holler) at your dog 4.) get in shape!!!

I think I know where we're going with the box turn, so I plan on working on getting Dempsey to offer to go over a short agility jump while I am futher back from it this week. We also don't want him to touch the bar, so I will be careful to reinforce when he doesn't knock the bar. I am also planning to build another faux-box to work on this skill with a slanted surface behind it. Hopefully by next week we will be able to show some real progress on this.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dempsey grabs the spotlight

Hey all,

This past weekend I went to a flyball practice for the first time since mid-May. Back then, Dempsey was having trouble getting 3 feet on the box for his turns, and was doing recalls in side by side lanes. There is some video of Dempsey learning his box turn on youtube, and if you're interested, you can look back in the blog for the links. I expected Dempsey to be able to do his recalls, and I thought he may get 3 feet on the box again if I were lucky.

Dempsey did as expected in his recalls, and he hated being touched by the guy holding him. Nothing new there, Besides giving Dempsey a goodie every time the man touched him, I think he will start looking forward to lining up because that means the start of the race. But that requires some experience, so we'll just keep plugging along with that concept.

A little later, Dempsey came back out for his box work. I decided to use a tug to reinforce good offered turns, because I think he needs to be a little more "up" to get better turns. I didn't use it earlier because I wanted him to offer the behavior, and in order to do that, Dempsey needs to be thinking. In any case, once he decided the man standing on the box wasn't going to touch him, Dempsey got right back to offering 3 feet on the box. Within a couple of reps, he offered a beautiful 4 foot turn! Seriously, it was gorgeous! Every once in a while something will just click for Dempsey, and it is such a beautiful thing. I am planning to film next time to hopefully get some record of our progress and how we are doing.

Bungee needs a mention here - he was his normal stellar self, and just did his job like he knows how to do. He even demo'd the steps we took when I shaped his box turn with a clicker for a couple of people who were interested. He really is a neat little dog :).

I also took Peepers out to the barn this morning. It's time to start filming these sessions, as he is getting more and more confident, and I am now ready to start working on introducing a pole for him to fly around. In this session, Peepers was flying when cued pretty well, even though the barn was creaking a lot from the wind. He was offering his bottoms up behavior a TON, I guess he likes that trick, and I will be trying to use it as a reinforcer for other behaviors. He also did something that was good, but not right, that I have to think about. I cued him to fly to a perch, and on the way, for the first time, he decided to land on my arm. I like the idea that if he feels the need to abort a mission, that he lands on me, but I want to encourage him to go where cued. So I let him land, then took him to the perch I had cued him to. When he stepped down onto it, I gave him a pine nut. I think this gives him a pretty good balance to the problem - he can land on me if he wants, but the big reinforcers happen when he gets to where I ask him to go.

I got kind of excited after this morning's training (Peepers just did so well), and was home this afternoon, so I decided to do another session out there, and I thought it would be a good idea to bring Sparky out and introduce her to the barn also. I also filmed it, because I started 2 new things: Sparky's intro to the barn, and Peepers learning to fly around a pole.

The session didn't go quite as planned. Peepers seemed to be a little upset, I suspect because Sparky was there and on my shoulder. He offered exactly zero bottoms ups, lol, and did I think one on cue. Sparky wasn't interested in being anywhere but my shoulder, so what work I did with Peepers was done with her right there. I was able to introduce the pole to Peepers, and we did get to the point where he has to think about the pole while he flew from one perch to the other, but he really didn't have to change his path at all. He did of course notice the pole, and it affected him in that he wasn't able/willing to leave one perch for the other, so I just asked him to fly from my hand, as you can see from the video. One or 2 times I felt like I had to kind of dump him off my hand - I feel like I can no longer allow him to sit on my hand and regurgitate, so when he starts to do that, I rotate my hand around to force a different behavior. I suspect this isn't the best idea, and I am going to try and avoid the situation entirely as best I can in the future.

There's also some other kind of interesting things to note. The parrots are left loose in the house overnight, and in the morning, Peepers has the option of eating to his heart's content, with foraging everywhere and all sorts of goodies. When I took him out to the barn in the morning, the poops he did out there had almost nothing in them. It could be that he had already digested the stuff he ate in the morning, or he could be a light eater. I have no idea, but for those who are interested in the whole food management thing, it's worth noting.

I also have been concerned about all the pine nuts and almonds Peepers has been getting from all the training. Today after both sessions, I cleaned up the bird room, and there was a pile of regurgitated pine nuts in a pile on the floor. I think they were from the second session, just because the young dogs would have cleaned them up if they had had access to them, but I don't know for sure. So, I am going to keep an eye on this and see if he's stuffing himself to the point where he can't keep it all down on a regular basis. I don't know what I would do about it, but hey, I at least want to know if it's happening :).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

No Training, just an update

Hey everyone, I haven't trained any critters in a week (!), but I thought it would be a good idea to update everyone so that you don't think we're up and disappeared.

Sidney the lab had surgery this week of a hematoma on his ear. Since Monday I have had to keep a very close eye on him to make sure he didn't remove his bandage and/or shake his head. That has kept me occupied, if not outright busy tackling him before he can do damage to himself. The bandage came off today, so I am hoping that the would will dry out a bit and stop bothering him so much. In the meantime, Sid and I are hanging out together :).

Since I haven't trained the birds, I have added another foraging area for them, and also made getting the goodies a little more difficult. In one of my earlier posts there is a picture of Peepers on a tree stand, and there are dixie cups hanging all around. I had been putting goodies in each of the cups. Now I am only putting treats in some of the cups (about 50% or so), and I am crumpling the cups up, making him work just a little harder to get at them. It seems to have made him kind of cranky - I guess coming off welfare sucks lol.

Sparky hasn't been too interested in messing with the cups, but she has also had to work a little harder for her food. She has a dish in her cage that has food, toys and shredded paper. She rifles through all of it to get the treats in there. I also have added a basket to the side of her cage which will also have stuff to get in it.

It is definitely time to get back to training, but I am so glad to have something that I can give these guys to do. Boredom sucks!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Playin in the Barn

This afternoon, when I got home, Peepers was kind of obnoxious, and hanging by the big picture window looking like he really wanted to go outside. So I took his lead and we headed out to the barn. It was a lovely day in the high 80s and a really nice breeze blowing. I brought the camera out with me to see if I could get a decent shot of his bottoms up behavior.
When we got out there, Peepers could hardly wait to get out of his carrier. It was great to see, and I had high hopes for the session. It turned out that he didn't want to do a lot of flying, he wanted to do a lot of bottoms up, LOL. He wanted to stay at the end of the barn in the picture, and wasn't interested in flying to the other end. I have no idea why. So we messed around, and I started trying to combine the bottoms up with the wing lift so I can get "batbird". Or maybe it'll be a thing like I shoot him, and he flips down. Either could be cute :).
I also have been having some trouble getting Peepers back in his carrier after we're done in the barn. He's generally not done when I am, and will fly off when I try to carry him close to the carrier. So I worked on this with him today, putting him in the carrier, giving him a treat, and letting him back out to fly to a perch again. I am sure I will have to keep this up for a while, I just think that as he gets more and more excited to be in the barn that it will be harder and harder to get him out of it.
I promptly got distracted by other things, so all other training went by the wayside.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Everbody wants a turn. Woo hoo!

Hi all,

I really don't know how to move into what we did today, so I guess I will just plow right into it. Hope you all don't mind...

Lessee, the first thing I did was work with Peepers and his harness. Today was an improvement again, he left his head in the loop for a few wing lifts, and even managed to hold his wings up for a second or 2 before I c/t'd.

Sparky then got a turn, and she totally rocked! Today for the first time she left her head in the loop while it laid on her neck and wings. One time she also went further in to grab a bigger piece of almond, which put the loop right in the middle of her back. She's doing so so well, and even better is that she hadn't even seen her harness for at least a week.

We moved on to retrieving fun. Peepers did really well, sometimes moving his head pretty significantly towards my hand. He also tended to stay more focused, with less droopy wings and bopping around. I would like to see more progress towards actively placing the die in my hand, but considering all the other good things happening, I think I will take it :). Sparky also was a star, she was managing to pick up the die pretty well. She did pick it up and run off once, and unfortunately she was facing away from me when she picked it up, and I wasn't quick enough to get my hand in front of her. I do think, though, that she's not trying to play with it, but kind of gets "stuck" and doesn't know what to do. I think a smaller working area would be good here, so I am thinking on how to limit the area ahe works in. I may move this to the kitchen table, which is much smaller :).

I ended with desensitizing Peepers to the hoop. Ok, this isn't a real/proper desens program, but I am trying to get him used to it. I started with the hoop against the wall, and asked Peepers to get close to it. He was doing ok, then seemed to think he was absolutely done. I tried to ask him for one more rep, but then I used a phrase that sets off one of the dogs, and subsequently sets off the others. That was too much for Peepers to handle so I decided to end there. I was surprised when I was cleaning up when Peepers leaned down towards the table with the hoop laying on it (I lay it down so that it won't fall over and startle the birds at other times), so I did another session with him. It was short, and there isn't much new here to see, but he did volunteer to get close to the hoop in the first place, so I think that he is starting to get a little curious about this big pink thing.

Sparky was squeaking for a turn, so I introduced her to the hoop. It was kind of funny, she changed her mind when we got about 2 feet away from it :).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting back on Track

Hey all,

This morning was very very warm and humid, and I was tired, so I didn't take Peepers out to the barn. I am going to try and do that tomorrow so he doesn't forget what he's learned so far, and he continues to get more and more comfortable there.

But... I did get back to working on the indoor stuff. Today Peepers wanted to train, Sparky still wasn't interested. Sparky did show me a little bit of what's on her mind though - she spent almost the whole time I was at the table with Peepers on her cage flapping her now growing out wings. It was great to see and I am more than happy to forego training a little bit if she prefers to flap her wings :). She also did a mini-recall today when she wanted to leave the windowsill she was on and I wasn't moving fast enough. It was a hop/flap of just a few feet, but that was huge for her since she barbered herself. I am so super happy to see it!

Back to what I had planned to do :). I started with Peepers and the harness. It has been a week since we did anything on it, so I just did a review to see if he could still lift his wings while the loop was over his head. that was easy-peasy, and since I really am not sure what the next step is with him yet, we quit this exercise fairly quickly. You will also see in the video that there is a hoop against the wall - I plan on teaching Peepers to fly through hoops, and this is the first time he's been asked to get anywhere close to it. I think he did a fine job of ignoring it :).

Then I decided to work on his retrieve. Once again, I planned on a review, and Peepers shows that he is right where we left off, picking up the die and moving his head very slightly to put it in my hand. The hoop is still there and he is still ignoring it.

I thought since Peepers did so well ignoring the hoop that I would see if we could start working on doing something with it (in the end, I would like him to hop through it while it's on the table, and then I will move it out to the barn). I messed this up, thinking he was more ok with it than he was. I moved the hoop away from the wall to hold it up with my hand. That seemed to freak him out a bit, and now he really noticed the hoop and was disturbed by it. So I placed it back against the wall and asked him to target around it. You can see in the video that he keeps a very close eye on it, but he does manage to target fairly close to it. I can build on this, but I took a pretty big step backward because I thought he was better with it than he actually was :(.

There's lots to be excited about from today, and yet still so much to work on. I spose I should expect it - every time we get a new behavior, there's more things to teach to get that behavior well taught. And of course, every time I push too much, then I have made a bigger project out of something than need be. One of these days I will learn...

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Best Laid Plans...

I had planned on getting some good training time in over the weekend, but I managed to sleep pretty much the entire weekend :(. I really don't know how someone can sleep for 48 hours almost straight, but I managed it. So formal training kind of went out the window, but I did discover something that I hadn't realized.

Peepers does not recognize, in any way, the "stick em up" cue when we are not in a formal training session and PB&J is on the line. He could wave, but he just seemed to be so frantic about getting his share of the PB&J that he wasn't even registering that I was giving a different cue, let alone what that cue may be. So he and I have another project that we can work on at other points in the day. And I found another potential reinforcer for him, as long as I don't mind a very messy training session :).

Peepers has also moved on from almonds and now picks pine nuts consistently as his reinforcer of choice. This kind of suits me, as he just gulps those down without savoring every bite.

Today I finally got out to the barn again with Peepers, and he enjoyed himself, although he wasn't terribly into working. He pretty much just wanted to mess around out there, so I had to back up a little bit and ask him to fly to the perches from my hand. Since he wasn't nervous I decided to raise the criteria a little bit and asked him to fly from my hand through the bars to each perch, and I also raised my enery level quite a lot (part of this was from necessity - in order to reinforce him at the perch as he landed, I needed to run to the perch right behind him). This seemed to engage him a little bit and give me a chance to make some progress with him on flying skills. He also really wanted to do his bottoms up behavior and combined it sometimes with stick em up. I think that I will try to combine the 2 behaviors into a new one - batbird! I suspect it will be a little difficult for me to keep each of these on their own cue, but hey, nothing like practice :).

I tried to train both the birds later for their harness and retrieve, but neither wanted to do a thing. I have no clue why. It's so unusual for both of them to be uninterested that I feel there must have been something "in the air" so to speak. Ah well. No biggie. We'll see what they think tomorrow. If they both decide again that they don't want to play, then I will take a closer look at the house and see if I can find something I need to change.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Using premack with the birds

Hi all,

I have been super busy this week, so although I have been taking Peepers out to the barn in the morning, and exercising the dogs in the evening, I have not been able to work on harness training or the retrieve. Peepers has been making progress in the barn - we are back to practicing the concept we were doing when we were inside, which is teaching Peepers to distinguish between a recall cue and a send cue. Peepers is still a little confused about it, and is also dealing with the fact that I have heavily reinforced sending from one perch to another, which makes it a little harder for him to think of doing something different :). He also has learned a new trick: "bottoms up!". I did this on one of our quick breaks in the barn. Peepers swings down to hang from the perch when I cue him with "bottoms up". I am also adding in the drinking sign with my hand just for kicks LOL.

I have been watching a debate online that brought up a training principle that seems to be underused with parrots, the Premack principle. The basic definition of Premack is this: A principle that states that contingent access to high-frequency behaviors ("preferred" activities) serves as a reinforcer for the performance of low-frequency behaviors. (source: Basically, what this means is that anything that an animal wants to do can be used as a reinforcer for another behavior.

This is such a powerful concept, and one that rarely gets discussed on the email lists that I am on regarding parrot training. This is something many many competitive dog trainers use to get amazing results with their dogs. If we could figure out how to effectively use this with our parrots, it would give us a world of opportunities in working with them.

So, I've been thinking about how to build this up with Peepers. I was able to use going to the bars in the barn as a reinforcer for him one day, but since then he's just been bleh about the bars. I guess been there, done that :). I also am trying to teach more fun little behaviors, like the bottoms up trick, that may be able to be used as reinforcers for more difficult behaviors later. And in the meantime, while I'm doing other things, I keep trying to work out how best to structure things to use this concept to it's fullest potential.

I guess that's it for my thoughts for now :). I tend to mull things over for a while, then suddenly move on them, hopefully I will come up with something brilliant soon, so I can post about how I am applying Premack to training Peepers and Sparky.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bits of stuff here and there

Hi all,

For the past coupla days, I've been taking Peepers out to the barn to work on flight stuff and acclimating to the barn. The heat has kind of taken it out of him, so I have backed off other training. But today, it has cooled off to a lovely 95 degrees, so we were able to work on everything.

First off I guess is what's happening in the barn. Every day, Peepers is more willing to do more things he knows, but he still has a lot that he is concerned about. I can hardly blame him. Yesterday, the neighbors right on the other side of the fence were working on their RV, and today the new tenant in the garage apartment came out to say hi. In addition, there's a mockingbird nest right outside one of the big doors, and that bird does some interesting things :). We've also had model airplanes in the field behind the property, breezes that make the barn creak, and lots of other new stuff. What's great about all of this is that Peepers has continued to work with me, and tried to pay attention. Today was the first day Peepers did not want to come back in the house when we were done training, so I ended up spending quite a bit of time picking him up, walking to his travel cage, watching him fly off, and walking to pick him up. over and over and over again. There's a technique that some people use with dogs to get them to pay attention that may help Peepers in this case that I am considering - if he refuses to go in his cage, I may leave the building and walk out of sight. I want to be sure that this will be effective for him, though before I try it - if he doesn't care whether or not I am around, this will fizzle badly :).

The dogs have been interesting. Hold is coming along ok, with Bungee telling me it is IMPOSSIBLE to hold a clay coaster. IMPOSSIBLE. It doesn't matter that Sophie does it. IMPOSSIBLE. Dempsey is almost managing to sit still while holding, although I am reminding myself constantly to make sure I reinforce before he starts to wiggle. One misstep, and he's wiggling all over the place again. Sophie has turned into such a little holding pro that I wanted to take a picture of her holding a sunflower from the backyard. The sunflowers have little fuzzy spiky things on the stems, and although she would hold it, she looked like I beat her into doing it. So I didn't snap a shot . I'll try and find something else cute to do...

Peepers harness session turned out super short. It seemed to me that he really didn't want to do it, but he was sticking around like he did want to train. So I asked him to put his head in one time and we would be done. So that's what he did lol.

Sparky, OTOH, was a rock star. Today she left her head in the big loop while it touched her. Pretty big deal, IMO :). I think Sparky's progress is more typical of an adult parrot learning about the harness - she's going at a slow but steady pace, whereas Peepers started like gangbusters and has slowed considerably. I find it easier to know how much more to try with Sparky on any given session, I think because I feel like I know more about how she's feeling.

Then I worked on the retrieve with both of them. Peepers is doing pretty well, and is starting to move his head slightly towards my hand when he drops the die . Sparky had a big session on this - she picked up the die and started running around with it. I don't think she knew quite what she should do with it, but eventually she let go. It seemed like it was a pretty big deal in her book, so I asked her to pick it up a couple more times and we were done. Sometimes she is so silly...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Motoring along with our new tricks

Hi all,

A couple days ago, I took Peepers out to the barn for his 2nd time. We ended up out there for about 1/2 hour, taping the whole time. I certainly didn't plan on a 1/2 hour session, but a few things happened while we were out there. 1.) Peepers started out interested in flying from me to each perch, but he wanted to look around each time (adding considerably to the amount of time we would be out there), then 2.) Peepers wanted to explore the bars on one side of the barn. This gave me an opportunity to use them as reinforcers, and keep the idea that he should do things on cue. These 2 factors made for a long session, and a long video :). I am proud of what he is doing out there, and the amount of effort he is giving me under some very very new circumstances. Here's the links to the videos:,, Towards the end of the session, you can see Peepers is getting close to the end of his rope - he is finding it more difficult to pay attention, and also it seems like he is getting more emotional (very technical, I know, but I can't think how else to put it).

Yesterday I skipped the barn (it's very very hot, and my a/c is on the fritz, so I don't want him to heat up and be unable to cool off easily), and played with the harness and retrieve with both the birds. As I was setting up, Sparky was practically jumping out of her skin to get her turn, and Peepers wasn't quite as enthusiastic as her, so I started with harness training Sparky. In this session, she chose to leave her head in the loop at get multiple treats. It was fantastic! She's not ready for the harness to touch her, but she's definitely getting more comfortable with the idea of the whole thing. I made sure to end the session shortly before she was ready - I am trying to make sure I don't push too long :).

After I put her back, Peepers was more than ready for his session. We worked some more on his wing lifts with a loop. He's doing very well at this, and a couple times I got 2 separate wing lifts while he wore the loop. This might have been the key to being able to move on for him - having a much more "active" behavior to do after putting his head in. Maybe he needs a little bit of a distraction like this. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple sessions.

Surprisingly enough, Sparky was still squeaking for a turn when Peepers got done, so I thought I would go ahead and work on a new skill with her - a retrieve. I haven't worked with her on this before, but she has done a little 101 things before, so she had an idea of how to go about problem solving this puzzle. She did really well, getting to the point where she picked up the die. I didn't think we'd get quite this far (shaping just isn't so much her thing, offering behaviors is kind of a slow thing for her), so I was super pleased with her progress.

Peepers still wanted to work on something while Sparky was playing with me, so after she was done he got the last session of the day. I would really like for him to actively put the die in my hand, but yesterday he started messing around with me, holding the die in his foot and playing with my hand. I'll see what he does over the couple of sessions, but if this starts to become a habit, I will have to change what I am doing to make things more clear for him. He is a bit of a clown, though, and I do really like that, so it will be a balancing act between keeping the joy and original thinking and doing the behavior I ask him to.

My plan over the next few days is to play the barn by ear. I don't plan to video it until I start working on new behaviors - Peepers clearly is fine with the perches in a new location, so there isn't much to show with that concept. What I will be doing is just establishing the idea that when we are out there, we do the same things as we do in the house. In the house, I am going to continue to quit while I am ahead, and try to see if we can make some real progress with the harness. I hope that Peepers will soon work to put the die in my hand, and that I can get Sparky picking it up and carrying it regularly. This just gets more and more fun :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Intro to the barn, and more stuff

This morning I got up reasonably early and took Peepers out to the flight barn for an introduction. It's awfully hot here, but I didn't plan on doing too much aerobic stuff with him, and the mornings are relatively reasonable.

I started out just placing him on his perch and giving him a short time to look around. I want Peepers to think of this area as another one that we go to and do our tricks, so I didn't want to let him just hang out too much. I soon asked him for some simple behaviors on his perch - target, wave and wing lift. He clearly had a lot on his mind while he did the stuff I asked, but I rarely had to ask more than once for a behavior. He did fail to take the almond from me a couple times.

Since Peepers was dealing with the situation pretty well, I decided to ask for a couple step-ups, just to get him off the perch and moving around a little bit. At first, he stepped up ok, but clearly wanted to get back on the perch. I guess that he feels safest there. Soon, though, he was ok with stepping up and going over to the other perch (you can see it further away in the video). We built up to stepping up for me, and then short flights to whatever perch we were going to. I ended shortly after that, because Peeper's feet were getting warm, and I felt he needed some time to think about what we had been doing. He's been pretty quiet in the house since - Not causing quite as much trouble as is his usual habit :).

One of the things that's noteworthy IMO is that Peepers did all of this in the morning - he had eaten any breakfast he wanted, and he is unused to doing any training this early. Training has always been an afternoon/evening thing for us. But he was definitely willing to do his tricks, and stayed engaged in what we were doing, and I think that makes things a lot easier for me.
I set up the grapevine perch I have with a bunch of dixie cups this afternoon and put almonds and pine nuts in them. You can see a pic of Peepers at the top of it. He enjoyed that very much (Sparky was interested in it, but didn't fiddle with it too much). Shortly after he was done, I decided to try and do the table top training with both the birds. Peepers flew right over to the table for his session, and stayed engaged, but we didn't get much done. After just a couple of reps with the harness, I tried the retrieve, and after a couple of reps with that, I just lost patience with Peepers. He was just bopping around regurgitating, and offering wing lifts, and mostly screwing around. So I ended when I got one more rep so we could end on a positive (for me, I think he was having a fine time).
Then I tried to get Sparky. She didn't want to train at all, which is kind of odd. I guess she wanted a day off. So I don't have any video of her for today. Ah, well. We all need the weekend :).

Some movement in the right direction

Hey all,

Yesterday I did something silly - in the heat of the day, I went out to the flight barn and cleaned it up. Earlier, I had talked the guys that are fixing up the apartment here to do the coupla things that I couldn't do by myself in the barn. So, when they did that, I now had super motivation to get the rest of the clean up of the flight barn done. I lost my mind, and went out there in the middle of the afternoon. It was 103 yesterday! I'm a complete moron sometimes lol. I got the extra aviary wire moved, and cleared out the boards that are going in the trash this week, and then swept up. By the time I was done, I had overheated myself. Again. I was sick as can be the rest of the day. But, the building is done and ready for action! I am very excited about this - it's a very good space for training flighted stuff, and the birds can have supervised play time in there too.

After I had recovered at least somewhat from my silliness, I decided to play with Peepers and Sparky. I thought I would try and do harness stuff with Peepers first, and finish with flighted stuff, thinking that sequence would give me more enthusiasm and motivation for all of the things we would want to do. So, I got Peepers first, and started right away with the harness. The goal was the same as the previous 2 sessions - get Peepers to do a wing lift while the loop was over his head. He did it! A couple times even. He still is trying to offer wing lifts either before or after his head is in the loop, but he is starting to try and do it while the loop is over his head. What a good bird :). he also managed to get caught up in the loop again in this session. I'd have to watch again to see exactly how it all happened, but all of a sudden the loop was over and through his left wing. I think his left foot was also involved somehow. I think he ran out of range of the camera while he was working on getting it off, but in the end, instead of holding still for me to help him out, he reached back and gently (!) took the loop in his beak and lifted it off his wing. I would speculate that being able to just remove it like that had to make him feel better about the whole situation. He really stayed calm for this, and continued to use his noggin, which I really like to see. After that, I set up the loop again, and he came running back to where I was. He was a little hesitant about sticking his head in there, but once he did, we got a couple more wing lifts and then I made us stop.

Sparky was a little eager for her turn, and had even tried to fly to the table while Peepers was working (woo hoo!). So when I set up for her, you can see that she was squeaking and croaking, and clearly eager for the target stick to come out. I thought I would see if she would stick her head in the loop if just my hand was there (of course, I was holding a pc of almond, so it should happen, but you never know what they're thinking). She stuck her head in there like a champ! She continued to do it throughout the session, although in the middle there she tried walking around the harness to my hand to get the nut. Nice problem solving! Too bad it didn't work :). I didn't try wing lifts at all, because it looked like she was having an issue with a pc of almond again. I am starting to wonder if I am using exactly the wrong size pieces - too big to just swallow, too small to encourage taking appropriate sized bites. We'll see I spose.

I then brought Peepers back to work on his retrieve. It went ok, I managed to get my hand under his beak before he dropped the die a few times, so I would call the session a success, more or less. Throughout the session, though, Peepers was a little excited, and spent a little too much time bopping around and regurgitating. I'm thinking about putting some kind of end to that behavior, cuz it really distracts from the training. So I will be thinking how best to deal with it and will let everyone know what my plan is when I think of it.

This morning I introduced Peepers to the barn, and videoed it. I'll post about that in a bit, when I have the video converted, split and uploaded :).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So, I was going to post a bit about what happened yesterday, but I really don't remember the details and all I was thinking. I do know that I started with flight stuff with Peepers, and my impression is that it went well, with more work of course to be done with discriminating between cues. I also have decided to try and separate the flight and harness/table sessions a little bit because I think the flight stuff seems to interfere with Peeper's interest in the harness stuff.

In any case, I did Sparky next. Her video is here: At the end, I did try to start the wing lift the same way I have done it with Peepers. She seems pretty offended by my efforts, so I will have to play it by ear.

Peepers got his turn. I thought I would try and get him to just leave the big loop over his head and do a wing lift. I think this may be a good way to get him to understand he can do things while it's on, and give him a little more confidence in getting out. You can see his solution to the problem of what to do when I cued the wing lift while the loop was over his head here:

Today, I did the flight training about 2 hours before my planned time for harness stuff. Peepers was pretty good, but I did find an area where he was very confused about whether to fly to the perch or come to me. He has been doing either successfully on cue from other areas of the room, but this one spot had him just befuddled. I'm not positive what it was about this one spot that caused so much problems for him, but we worked on it. I suspect that it will still be a problem tomorrow, so I plan on working with him on it then.

I also played with the dogs a bit, something I really need to do more of. Bungee seems to have decided it is actually possible to move while holding something, but he mouths a little bit while he's doing it. He also is learning to target his foot, which I will build up to a "go to" target. Dempsey is still learning to hold. He's so so fidgety while he's got the dumbell in his mouth, but before I have taken it from his mouth. He taught me (again!) today that I really need to take the dumbell BEFORE he starts to fidget if I want to have any hope at all of teaching him to stay still. It made for some really rapidfire reps, but I think that if i keep that in mind, he will have it down in no time. Sophie has reminded me that she, in fact, is the queen of all things and will hold anything I hand to her if there's cheese involved. That's a girl that never forgets what she's learned :).

I started the 2nd parrot session with a new fun skill for Peepers - the retrieve. I spose technically it's not new, as he did learn it about 8 years ago, but he hasn't been asked to do a retrieve for at least 5 years. So I decided to start over and shape it again. I used a die because I wanted something relatively easy to carry but not too interesting to fiddle with. And, I wanted it to show up on camera decently. The beginning of this looks much like 101 things - look c/t, approach c/t, touch c/t, etc etc. Peepers enjoyed it very very much - he's now regurgitating while he works on some things, and this was one of them.

Then Sparky was squeaking for her turn, and we worked on her harness stuff again. She has started exploring the harness a little bit more, and was putting her head fully into the loop to target the stick. I think she's starting to figure this isn't a big deal, and maybe we'll be able to make some more progress on this.

Peepers was a total pest during Sparky's turn, so I thought he'd be pretty up for one more turn, this time working on the harness. I am still thinking that a wing lift while the big loop is draped on him will help Peepers a lot, so I continued to work towards this today. He's kind of funny, offering the wing lift before he sticks his head in, and after he takes it out, but he still isn't quite up for doing while the loop is across his neck. It's ok, because he's more willing to try this than he was to put his head through the small loop. I like that I am getting back the willingness that I was starting to lose.

One thing that I am not to happy about is my inability to quit before the parrots do. Today, Sparky swallowed a pc of almond wrong, and needed to stop. For some silly reason, I asked her to do one more rep before quitting. I know better. And Peepers is starting to leave the session earlier than I plan on, which is so so bad. So, I am going to try and make sure I don't ask for more than they are willing to do. And I will be giving myself a think on the head if i fail to do it lol.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Boy titles are hard to come by...

Yesterday was pretty cool with the birds - Peepers had a great time working on flight stuff, and Sparky showed me she could work under some very distracting conditions.

I started with flight work with Peepers, flying between perches on cue, and I started work on discriminating between a recall and send. I decided to get started on this because Peepers has been starting to go to the perch no matter where I was or what I was doing. My cue for flying to something is to be facing in the direction of it, with my inside arm (the one on the side of the bird) held out. My cue for come has me facing directly at Peepers, with my arm held in front of me in position for him to land on it. There's also verbals, but I have learned doing agility with the dogs that I can easily use the wrong verbal, but the correct body cue, and the dog will follow that. I think the birds will be more or less the same, so I am teaching both verbal and body cues for most behaviors. In any case, Peepers struggled a little bit with the idea. At first, he would fly to the perch if I was off to the side of his flight path, no matter which way I was facing. But he was enjoying the lesson so much, we worked for what must have been a 1/2 hour on it, and by the end of it, he was doing the correct behavior when cued. Of course we will need to work further on it, but it was a really good start. Peepers wanted to keep going with this, but his feet were so so hot that I thought he really needed to take a break. My sister has volunteered to come over and tape some of these sessions, so hopefully soon I'll be able to show everyone what's going on.

Sparky got her turn next, and while I was setting up, some people showed up to work on the apartment that's on the property. They parked right next to the doors that open on the bird room, and started unloading, setting the dogs off. As i was trying to get them to quiet down, I also asked Sparky to work a little and she did, really with no problem. She has started to put her head a little bit into the harness, I think for her this is going to take a little while.

I tried to come back to Peepers and his harness training. I've decided to back up a little bit because Peepers is a little hesitant to work with it now, and I want him to be confident with this step. So, my plan was to just lay the harness nearby and ask him to do other things near it. He came into the session still worked up over his flight training and also a little put out by the people outside. Coupled with his not so positive feelings about the harness right now, it wasn't a very good session. He did very few behaviors, mostly stomped around and messed about. What he did do, though, which I was pretty pleased with, was continue to do his cued behaviors even when he stopped taking treats. I ended the session on one of those reps, because I really wanted to be able to effectively reinforce what Peepers was doing, but I didn't know exactly how to do it in this situation. I'll figure something out I am sure for the next time this happens :).

On another good note, the flight building is now wired in, and I have cleared out the innards of the chicked coop. All I need to do is get rid of the outer walls of it, and fill in the hole, and it is ready for use. I am very excited to have this opportunity to not only teach Peepers some more skills that need more space, but to be able to offer it to anyone who would like to give their parrots the opportunity to fly in a larger area, and potentially with other parrots. I can't wait until I can post that the building is ready for fun and games!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Progress in a new direction

Well, today was a lot of fun for the birds and I. I started the session with Peepers' flying stuff, teaching him to fly from one perch to another on cue. I had changed the setup of the room, and in order to fly from one perch to the other, he had to fly between both cages and past the table we train on. Sparky was on her cage, so he wasn't terribly inclined to go there, but he was quite confused about where he was supposed to fly when I cued him to "go". He was pretty much just going anywhere - his cage, the table, my shoulder. I wish i was set up to tape this session, because I think he had a watershed moment. On one rep, he was flying from the perch to his cage, and I put my hand up in the way. Just as he began to turn to go to the perch I had directed him to, I clicked, and after that, we had no issues at all. He was so into this, and got very very hot, so I also worked on wing lifts and waving in between reps to try and help keep him cool. He really enjoys the flying work, so I guess I need to hurry up and get his flight building fully functional :).

After that, I moved onto Sparky while Peepers cought his breath and cooled down. Sparky had a great session, she actually put her head into the large loop of the harness a couple times and was super sassy. You can see on the video where she took issue with one of the dogs getting too close to her table LOL. Usually she ignores them, but I guess today was her day.

When Sparky was done, I brought Peepers back for some work on the harness. The past couple sessions, I have been trying to not move the harness onto him, making sure that he puts his head through, that I do not do it for him. Naturally, since I am thinking about it, I am moving my hand more, and more often, making the situation worse. Nothing like being aware of doing something totally wrong lol. So this session is pretty much a "what not to do" when asking your parrot to do something it's uncomfortable with. Tomorrow, I vow to have more self-control.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Changing it up, and making progress

I started today's session with the parrots like yeaterday, with flying Peepers from perch to perch on cue. In that part, I tried to vary my location in relation to the perches, so that sometimes he needed to fly ahead of me, and sometimes he followed me to the perch. I am also trying to instill the idea that he should try and get to the perch ahead of me, even if I start off before him. Peepers is clearly digging this kind of start to the training session, which is fine with me. I need to add in another perch, and a pole, and some more space to really work on directing him where I want him to go. Considering his enthusiasm, I spose I had better get busy :).

I thought that Peepers and I would go straight into harness training, like we have been doing. He wasn't prepared to do that, and went back to his cage to have a drink and ring his bell for a while. So, Sparky got to go first. She did really well. I draped the harness over the target stick, and asked her to touch the stick (anywhere) for her treat. She thought about touching the harness once, and I missed my opportunity to c/t that (bad bad me :)). She also continued to work when Peepers flew to the perch nearest the table and watched. You can see in the video that she gives him a good look, then comes back for another touch of the target.

Peepers waited really patiently for his turn, but when Sparky was done, he flew right down to the table. I thought we would go ahead and work on sticking his head through the loop first, like we have always done. When I pulled it out, Peepers made it clear that he really didn't want to do that. So, since I had asked for the behavior, I got him to do it once, and then put the harness away and worked on wing lifts.

Peepers totally rocked this exercise! He got all excited again, and was kind of slow to offer each behavior, but by the end he was putting up both wings for his c/t. sweet!

I am going to change the order that we do things in, because Peepers still needs to get comfortable with sticking his head in the harness, but I also want him to enjoy his training to the fullest. So I'll play around with it and see when Peepers wants to work on that aspect, or at least won't mind as much. I also will be fiddling with sparky's training, to keep challenging her in little ways, and add other things to do to her repetoire.

Interesting day

yesterday was kind of cool. I had decided I was tired of the plateau that I had hit with both the birds, so I made a couple of little changes to see what would happen.

The first thing I did was work with Peepers on flying from perch to perch on cue. I didn't video this part, because it's been worked on and filmed a bunch already, and the room isn't set up well for taping flight stuff. Peepers had a great time with it, and was quickly flying from one to the other and back again on cue.

The the real fun started. While Peepers was munching on an almond, I set up the table for his harness training session. I was about to start the tape, and he was still on the perch, looking ready to train. So I asked him to come with me over to the table, and he flew to the other perch. Smart bird! But so wrong lol! I asked again, and he flew back the the 1st perch. It took him a few minutes to finally head to the table, where I started the tape and began his harness training.

I tried to do something a little different. I have been putting my finger under his wing to get him to lift it, then c/t when he does. I can't figure out why I am still doing this after a few successful sessions, so this time I decided to just point to his wing and wait for him to offer it. It was little slow, but Peepers picked up on it, and started to offer it. Then he got super excited, and almost all training stopped. I need to work more with him on actually working through this - it can get a little ridiculous sometimes.

Sparky then got a turn. I really want her to start touching the harness with some body part or another, and I started to ask for a little more from her to try and get that. I may have figured out some fairly reasonable way to hold everything and start to get her head closer to the loops while targeting. She did have one funny incident in this session - she touched the harness with her foot! Ack! She was very silly about it, and I think that overall it was a good experience for her. sparky ended this session on a very odd note - she was wiggling her neck around like there was a piece of almond stuck in it. She's ok, but it was really weird and kind of disturbing.

The dogs are having a fine time with "hold". Bungee is slowly learning he can hold and move, although he tends to mouth whatever he's holding while he moves. I'm not sure what that's about, but I am sure we can work through that. And Dempsey last night went from a dog who could barely pick up the dumbell and fling it at my feet, to one who picked it up and SHOVED it into my hands. All in one session. He must've gotten another brain cell to work LOL. Sophie is supplying plenty of motivation to the boys to get it right - she jumps in and shows them when they screw it up. And I'm sure she has some choice words for them when she does this. Sidney is hanging out practicing anything he wants to, and enjoying every minute of it. I need to get them back out in the agility field, but boy, it's hot.

Friday, June 19, 2009

kind of an odd day

Yesterday was an interesting day - Peepers had a little incident with the harness, and even though he was a bit surly, ended up asking for a 2nd session after Sparky was done with hers.

Peepers first session was going along ok, when he got hung up in the harness. he was pretty crabby about it, but we got the thing off, and went right back to working on putting his head through the loop. This is something I tend to do - if something goes horribly wrong, I make sure no one is hurt, and get right back to the behavior. I don't like to end on such a bad note, I think it gives everyone too much time to think about the scary thing that happened. I want to focus on positive aspects of training. I've never been unable to get the behavior again right away, but if I wasn't, I would make sure to do something positive before ending (excpet in case of serious injury of course). We also worked for a long time after that, I guess Peepers got over it pretty quickly. The video is split into 2 parts, here and here

Sparky then had her session. I thought I would add in the harness and see how she reacted to doing other things around it. She once again had a longer than usual session, but was clearly a little unsettled about the harness (and prolly the table, and Peepers, and everything else that makes her nervous)

Once I had finished with Sparky, I began the cleanup, and Peepers flew to his spot on the table that he goes to while he waits for me to get ready to train. I took this as a sign that he wanted to have another session, so I worked with him again. It was odd, because he was a little surly, and I usually wouldn't work with him at all when he's like that, but I felt he had asked for the session, so I felt like I should give it to him. And, he didn't misbehave at all for it. He just had that funny air about him.

I think that the wing lifting exercise is making Peepers uncomfortable, but he still wants to train, so I am seeing this slightly testy behavior. Plus, he did get stuck in the harness yesterday, so I would guess that would also affect his mood. I am really proud of his effort even during the more difficult parts of his training. And Sparky I think is starting to get more confident, which is really great to see.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lots of learning, little bit of progress

Yesterday was a pretty good day for the birds, at least it was informative for me and gave me a lot to think about. I planned on doing a longer session with Peepers to work on different aspects of his harness training, so I split the training into 2 videos.

In the first video I spend most of my time working with Peepers on putting his head through the loop of the harness. I was having trouble with it, because he wasn't really interested in doing it. I was wondering why he had such a change of attitude, when it dawned on me to dump the clicker I was holding. That seemed to help him immensely, he started sticking his head through the loop immediately. Hmm, I guess he doesn't like the clicker making that noise directly in his ear :).

When I thought we should be done with that stage, I stopped and restarted the video. Then I began to work on wing lifting. I am not veru happy with the attitude I see with Peepers on this. I think using my finger to get him to lift his wing is a little too aversive for him, and I need to consider alternatives to show him what I am looking for. But, I will still need to be able to handle his wings to get the loop over them, so this is a bit of a problem.

Sparky is getting more comfortable on the table, and it may be time to teach her something new. She still doesn't want to move too much on the table, but in this session she stayed engaged in the training for quite a bit longer than usual.

IMO these videos are getting more instructional as far as watching the birds, and getting attitude for each step. The 2 of them are very very different, and my training has had to adjust a lot for each bird.

The dogs are starting to cruise through their new behaviors. Bungee is learning to hold onto his dumbell and move (that's hard!), and also to hold onto anything I ask him to (that's easy!). Sophie's just showing everyone up, and holding onto whatever like a little pro. Dempsey is learning to keep his mouth over the dumbell for more than a millisecond for his goodies, which he finds very difficult. And Sidney has it going on - he just hangs out and gets cheese :).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Steady and slow

Today we worked on wing lifting and a little bit of sticking his head through the harness. Peepers got super excited during this session, and I changed my plan slighty as the session went on.

Today Sparky was a little uncomfortable, but settled down when I brought her essnetially into a corner where she couldn't see Peepers. I think this session is interesting to watch her slowly relax a little and then just be done.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Today I decided to start working on asking Peepers to lift his wings when I ask for the next step of harness training. I decided to do this first, and hopefully do some other stuff after we were done with this part. I thought this might be difficult for Peepers, since he doesn't like to be manipulated, and I wanted to be able to end on something else more fun for him. I also decided to keep the harness out of the picture for now, so that the presence of the harness wouldn't signal the wing-lifting exercise, just in case wing lifting didn't go as planned.

After we took a short break from session 3 (Sparky had a short session in between), I decided to try and work on the harness directly with Peepers again. I suspect that he just needed to think on the wing thing from session 3, and wasn't prepared to do another session so soon.

Sparky had an ok session, it was short, but she went right into training, and I think she quit when she slid on the table a little bit. I wonder if this is the problem for her, that the table is too slick for her comfort. If it is, I am not sure that I want to fix it for her - I think it would be good for her to get used to a new and different surface.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wow! Wow! Wow!

What a day for Peepers! 2nd day of harness training, and he just seems to think this is easy as pie. I added in putting his head through the smaller loop, and he didn't mind in the least. He even decided to let it stay on while he munched on his almonds. It's just crazy how bold he gets as every new experience turns out well, and he finds that he can choose whether to go on or not. I now need to teach him to raise each wing so I can slip the big part of the harness over them. This should get interesting, as we have no background behaviors to deal with this, so I am basically starting from scratch.

Sparky had a rougher time. She's getting better on the table, and did some targeting, then Peepers flew in and just about landed on her. It didn't seem to ruin her entire day, but I don't think she wanted to train much more. Of course, this happened towards the end of her max 3 minute session, so it could have been a combination of the incident and her natural tendency anyway. But, certainly progress is progress, and I look forward to building on what I've got.

Bungee's hold is coming along really nicely. He now grabs the dumbell and typically tries to hold onto it, although sometimes he mouths it a little bit before he just holds it. But spitting it at me has almost disappeared. I ended up using Sophie to help fix this - when Bungee spit the dumbell at me, Sophie got a turn at holding it. He was horrified :).

Dempsey has learned to shake with either paw on cue. He's a little enthusiastic and therefore sloppy about it. He sure did pick up on it fast though, so I am sure he will be able to clean this up fairly quickly.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Boy, it's been a while

Hi all,

It's been a while since I posted, and a lot has happened. I have moved from AZ to TX, and am currently hunting for a job. While I look, I have had some training time between unpacking and wasting time online :).

The dogs have adjusted really well to the move. Sophie spends an inordinate amount of time rolling in the grass. Just the other day, I took her with me while I walked to the post office. It took a long time, because every 3 or 4 steps, Sophie would just stop, drop, and roll. All that seems to be required for her is grass, and we're surrounded by it now. I am so glad to see her happy. Sidney has just gone with the flow, as he always does.

Bungee has enjoyed the extra space, and immediately got himself an agent for his still nonexistant modeling career. Hopefully, Dallas will give him his big break. In the meantime, he's learning to hold anything I ask him to. This is very hard for him, as he really wants to DO more, but he's slowly getting it.

Dempsey has gotten back into his weave training. We haven't lost much in the 2 months he's been off, so I am hoping to get this behavior fairly solid by the end of summer. I also need to figure out how to set up the video camera for this - the field in much bigger than my backyard, with no natural places to set the camera. I'll be looking for this, so I can show Dempsey's progress.

Peepers and Sparky were totally easy for the move. We spent 2 nights in hotel rooms while we drove, and both nights they were relaxed as can be, clearly confident in their new surroundings.

2 days ago I started up with training them again. All I planned to do was review what they knew, just to see how the behaviors held up under new circumstances. Peeper's video is here: He was a total rockstar, and just blew through everything except a recall off his sisal perch.

Sparky had a rougher time. She didn't want to stay on the table. Her video is here: I shouldn't have pushed her quite this hard, I have just had a hard time adjusting to her change in attitude and personality since she barbered her wings. It's been a long time, yet still I try to treat her like the confident little bird she was. I changed my expectations for her on her 2nd session on the table, but I also am really waiting for her to molt the damaged feathers out, and having her real personality come out again.

Yesterday the birds both had sessions also. I've decided to work with Peepers on wearing a harness, so yesterday we started with a couple of easy known behaviors, then moved on to the harness. Sparky just needed to work on being comfortable on the table, so what I got of that session is here:

I'm really hoping to get back on track training the animals, and hopefully get a job that will give me a schedule that allows that.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not much training this weekend, but lots of stuff

Hey all,

This weekend has been busy - today I had an agility trial, and yesterday I went to a friend's to train agility together. But first, I have some upsetting news.

Yesterday morning, either before I got up or while I was gone, Sparly barbered her right wing. She snipped all the primaries off in a nice short clip. If i were into clipping, it would be a great clip, all I would need to do is clean up the uneven ends and do the left side, and we'd be set. As it is, I find it totally depressing. Sparky was just getting her recall back, and we were starting to get in shape and into the training game. I guess she's grounded now for a while, and in the meantime I will have her do some non-flight training. She also snipped feathers on her chest and back, so she looks terrible, but it's the wings that are so important to her health. Maybe she'll molt soon.

The dogs, though have had a good weekend. Yesterday I went to my friend Annie's to practice together. All the dogs had a good session, and Annie got to run Bungee. She's the first person he has ever worked for besides me, and he really put effort into it, which was awesome to see. Dempsey's really showing promise when he's comfortable - he's FAST!

Today we had a show so we got up super early and headed out. Dempsey's 1st run was trigility, a team event where each dog runs a section of a course in turn. Poor Dempsey had never done a class like that before, and it completely blew his mind that other dogs could be in the ring and run a course. Plus, there were sheep less than 100 yards away, and he was sure he needed to check those things out and see what they were. So it was a long day for him, and tonight he's sacked out (which is awfully nice now that I think of it).

Bungee was a total professional, and we qualified for nationals with a really nice run. He and I really understand each other, and it is such a joy to play with him. It's taken years for us to get this level of understanding. I just am so grateful to be able to play with him.

Tomorrow it's back on track, and I'll be thinking about what Sparky can do while she's growing out her wings again

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fun fun fun

we had an interesting day today. I did a little bit of work with Peepers between the 2 perches. I remembered to close the blinds, but that did help with his discomfort with going to the red perch. I am not certain what this was about, but we worked through it, and I will be sleeping on it and figuring out what I need to change to make Peepers more comfortable with the exercises. That video is here:

Sparky did another session of 101 things, and since I had a rough time keeping her attention yesterday, I set the timer and accepted just her moving the block towards her with her beak. It doesn't feel like a new behavior, but I think I need to be careful with this that I don't lose her interest before I can get the thinking portion of this down. I set the timer for 4 minutes, and that was a little bit ambitious. She was done at about 3:30 or so, but she did do more in that time than she did yesterday. So, I think I am on the right track with her.

Then the fun got started. My BF wanted to go get lunch, so I thought it would be a good idea to take Peepers with us to practice easy little behaviors in his carrier. So I pulled out the cage from yesterday's training, and Peepers immediately flew to the island and climbed in. We headed to Bostin Market, and when we got there, Peepers was off and running, targeting and waving like a little professional. I couldn't keep him busy with those through the entire lunch, so we also started a new behavior of dancing, which got him really going. Our finale was a duet of the Andy Griffith tune (remix), done loud and proud LOL. He was aware of his surroundings (we had a pause when one of the kids went to the dumpster about 50 feet away), but he was really focused and seemed to have a good time.

This is starting to get really fun. Sparky's getting into the whole training thing, and Peepers is starting to do fun stuff. I finally bought the PVC for a frame for the hoops and also some PVC for a pole to send Peepers out and round. And I have a harness to start working towards training for. Fun fun stuff.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fun with the birds

Well today was busy for the birds. Peepers had 2 sessions with new behaviors, and Sparky had one. The dogs, of course, did nothing so far :(.

The first session with Peepers I worked with the red and sisal perch on sends and recalls, and a couple of reps from perch to perch. I think I need to close the blinds for him in future sessions, but he was still a total rock star. Video:

Then I decided to work with Sparky on her own, and I think she needs to learn to think and do, so I did 101 things with her. I had had to start woth just hanging out on the kitchen island, which was done earlier in the day. We got to touching the block with her beak. I messed up this session, because I tried to make it too long for her attention span. She quit, and didn't come back for one last time :(. I'll be sure to shorten the session next time, but she did a great job. Video:

AND, now Peepers is getting to work on "ship it", which is getting into a carrier on cue. He had seen and been in this carrier, but it was well over a year ago, and he hadn't even set eyes on it since. I taped this, and in the tape, you can't see that the sides of the carrier have flaps in the cloth that are open, so he's not going into a closed up cave. But, Peepers was a star and was climbing in and out of the carrier by the end of the 8 minute session. Video:

While I was typing this, Peepers went back to the carrier and got right in. Joe got him an almond and I took it as a reminder to make sure I remove all the training stuff from the area. I want to be sure to reinforce every repetition and make sure nothing goes horribly wrong with the stuff I am training.